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DE|COMPOSITION: Life and death in process

In DE|COMPOSITION, artist, political ecologist, geographer, and environmental scientist Linzi Lewis puts forward the notion that “Life is a fragile and uncertain celebration.” Death is certain and integral to life, rebirth is intangible yet constant. Somewhere in between the two is where she locates her performance.

A collaboration between musicians, environmentalists, and artists, DE|COMPOSITION is one of the many short- form virtual offerings on the Fringe at this year’s National Arts Festival. Coming in at just over nine minutes, and with two distinct parts, it’s a dance piece you can watch over a cup of coffee, or while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. Still, there’s a fair amount going on in these nine minutes.

Music, ambient field recordings, and
choice imagery open the performance. The music, courtesy of drummer and multi- instrumentalist duo Mr Freddy, is steady electronic and instrumental work, while
the imagery – a frayed circle, wilting grass, the winding veins and capillaries of a leaf
– occupies the frame. Lewis enters and
turns, falls, and folds through a mirrored choreographic sequence that’s superimposed over all the rest. In the first half she appears almost spectral, with the medium of film allowing for a good amount of shadow play and digital theatrics. In the second half,
which features a new instrumental track
and imagery in the form of damp, scattered leaves, her likeness is more concrete – though a hoodie pulled over her head still obscures

her face.
Death, revival, transience – they’re topics that have always prompted inspiration and inquiry within the performing arts. With the advent of a global pandemic, when death and uncertainty feel all the more present, they’ve taken on a renewed sense of urgency. As such, DE|COMPOSITION feels very much like a pandemic-born production.
It’s a short, sharp work with distinct inputs from a small team of collaborators who’ve

likely chipped in via a series of whatsapps, emails, and Zoom calls. It’s unresolved
and affect-laden, yes, but perhaps that’s the point. Rather than making any firm statements or claims to the times we find ourselves struggling to make sense of, it’s a piece that grapples with the peripheral and the immaterial, and subsequently presents itself as a work in process – a testing and teasing out of ideas and emotions.

In this way, DE|COMPOSITION can serve

as an example of the kind of work that’s well-suited to the current world of online festivals and virtual performances, making use of platforms like the virtual National Arts Festival to gauge interest and trial-run concepts against a global, online audience through distinct, but evolving performances or bodies of work.

For now, it’s an engaging performance that’ll take you a few minutes to watch, and the rest of the day to think about.